David L. Kirp, is a policy consultant and former newspaper editor as well as an academic. In his seventeen books and scores of articles, in both the popular press and scholarly journals, he has tackled some of America’s biggest social problems, including affordable housing, access to health, gender discrimination and AIDS. Throughout his career, his main focus has been on education and children’s policy, from cradle to college and career. He was a member of the 2008 Presidential Transition Team, where he drafted a policy framework for early education.
His latest book, Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America's Schools, was named outstanding book of 2013 by the American Education Research Association. The book chronicles how an urban school district has brought poor Latino immigrant children, many of them undocumented, into the education mainstream. His previous book, Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming the Lives of Children, makes a powerful argument for building systems of support that reach from cradle to college and career. It won the National School Board Journal award for the best education book of 2011. The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics analyzes why early education has emerged as a national priority. It received the Association of American Publishers Award for Excellence. His account of the market-oriented drift of higher education, Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education garnered the Council for Advancement and Support of Higher Education’s research award. He is a member of the National Academy of Education.
Much of David Kirp’s writing is aimed at a broad audience. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, American Prospect, Nation, Slate, Daily Beast, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and Huffington Post. In 2015 he was invited to be a contributing writer to the Opinion section of the New York Times. In recent years, he has addressed the American Association of School Administrators, the National Science Foundation, the Center for American Progress, the National Institute for Early Education Research, the American Federation of Teachers, the Cleveland City Club and the Economic Policy Institute. He frequently speaks on college campuses in the United States and abroad, including Harvard, Columbia, UCLA, Stanford, the University of Virginia, Boston College, NYU, Amherst, Glasgow, Ben Gurion, Wellington, Melbourne, Trento and Oslo.
Long committed to developing a new generation of public leaders at the Goldman School of Public Policy at Berkeley, he launched the New Community Fund, to promote greater student diversity, an education and youth policy scholarship and an eponymously-named scholarship. David Kirp is a graduate of Amherst College—a former trustee of his alma mater—and Harvard Law School. He serves as a member of the board of Friends of the Children and on the international advisory committee of Escuela Nueva, a Colombia-based nonprofit that in the past quarter-century has educated millions of children in the developing world. Previously, he served on the boards of Experience Corps and the CORO Institute for Leadership.
Follow him on Twitter at @DavidKirp.
Watch the video Defies Measurement, a public education documentary with David Kirp.
Download a PDF (163KB, updated 01-22-2013)
Areas of Expertise
- Children, Youth and Families
- Race & Ethnicity
- Early Childhood Education
- Higher Education
Last updated on 09/04/2018
GSPP Working Paper: GSPP10-003 (April 2010)
African-American boys have long fared worse in school. This paper documents this achievement gap, then assesses a number of evidence-based strategies that hold promise of bridging that gap. Those strategies range from high-quality early education and skill-building reading programs to mentoring initiatives and interventions that address stereotype vulnerability. Much of the existing research has not isolated the effects on black males, and the paper offers new data that demonstrates those impacts. A sequence of interventions, which begin before kindergarten and continue during college, is recommended.
Download a PDF (141KB)
Kirp, David L. Almost Home: America's Love-hate Relationship with Community. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2000.
Kirp, David. Education Policy and the Law. 4th ed. N.p.: Thomson, 2001.
by David L. Kirp. 2013, Oxford University Press.
No school district can be all charismatic leaders and super-teachers. It can't start from scratch, and it can't fire all its teachers and principals when students do poorly. Great charter schools can only serve a tiny minority of students. Whether we like it or not, most of our youngsters will continue to be educated in mainstream public schools.
The good news, as David L. Kirp reveals in Improbable Scholars, is that there's a sensible way to rebuild public education and close the achievement gap for all students. Indeed, this is precisely what's happening in a most unlikely place: Union City, New Jersey, a poor, crowded Latino community just across the Hudson from Manhattan. The school district—once one of the worst in the state—has ignored trendy reforms in favor of proven game-changers like quality early education, a word-soaked curriculum, and hands-on help for teachers. When beneficial new strategies have emerged, like using sophisticated data-crunching to generate pinpoint assessments to help individual students, they have been folded into the mix.
The results demand that we take notice—from third grade through high school, Union City scores on the high-stakes state tests approximate the statewide average. In other words, these inner-city kids are achieving just as much as their suburban cousins in reading, writing, and math. What's even more impressive, nearly ninety percent of high school students are earning their diplomas and sixty percent of them are going to college. Top students are winning national science awards and full rides at Ivy League universities. These schools are not just good places for poor kids. They are good places for kids, period.
Improbable Scholars offers a playbook—not a prayer book—for reform that will dramatically change our approach to reviving public education.
Kirp, David L. Kids First: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children's Lives and America's Future. New York: PublicAffairs, 2011.
Kirp, David L. The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-first Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007.
Kirp, David L. Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2003.
Articles and Op-Eds
The New York Times, November 14, 2015
The New York Times, October 3, 2015
The New York Times, May 30, 2015
The New York Times, May 2, 2015
The New York Times, February 28, 2015
The New York Times, January 31, 2015
The New York Times, December 27, 2014
Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2014
SF Gate, January 11, 2014
The New York Times, January 7, 2014
The New York Times, October 19, 2013
Slate, June 18, 2013
The Nation, May 7, 2013
Slate, May 5, 2013
The Nation, April 30, 2013
Los Angeles Tiimes, April 6, 2013
Washington Post, April 3, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle, March 14, 2013
CNN's Schools of Thought Blog, February 20, 2013
The New York Times, February 8, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle, December 16, 2012
Inside Higher Ed, December 2, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle, October 18, 2012
The New York Times, May 19, 2012
The Nation, February 9, 2011
The Nation, December 7, 2010
The Nation, May 26, 2010
The Nation, July 11, 2007
The Nation, November 1, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle, October 31, 2004
American Educational Research Association, March 23, 2014
Harvard Graduate School of Education, March 9, 2014
The Nation, September 3, 2013
Slate, September 3, 2013
Washington Monthly, July 31, 2013
National Education Policy Center, July 10, 2013
EdSource, June 2, 2013
The School Superintendents Association, May 31, 2013
Washington Post, May 13, 2013
KQED Forum with Michael Krasny, May 12, 2013
Cap Times, May 8, 2013
NJ Today, April 2, 2013
CNN, February 28, 2013
Bloomberg's TV, February 28, 2013
New Jersey Education Association, February 28, 2013
August 31, 2011
KQED, March 7, 2011
SF Chronicle, October 31, 2008
October 21, 2008
October 21, 2008
December 31, 2007
June 13, 2007
The New York Times, January 15, 2005
October 4, 2004
Times Higher Education, April 8, 2004
David L. Kirp, Anthony S. Bryk, Janelle Scott, Mark G. Yudof
Event: No More New Education Policy Ideasâ€”Please!
Date: October 21, 2016 Duration: 89 minutes
David L. Kirp
Event: The 2016 US Presidential Election: Spectacle or Horror Show?
Date: September 7, 2016 Duration: 52 minutes
Date: September 8, 2014 Duration: 4 minutes
Event: David Kirp on his 2014 AERA Outstanding Book Award - Improbable Scholars
Date: April 18, 2014 Duration: 85 minutes
Professor David Kirp
Date: April 4, 2014 Duration: 57 minutes
Event: Improbable Scholars Talk with author David L. Kirp
Date: March 19, 2014 Duration: 90 minutes
Event: Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for Americaâ€™s Schools
Date: April 2, 2013 Duration: 82 minutes
Event: Book Discussion on Improbable Scholars
Date: March 26, 2013 Duration: 68 minutes
Date: February 12, 2008 Duration: 56 minutes